Alice Marie Johnson
Alice Marie Johnson, a single mother struggling to raise her five children, was sentenced to life without parole for acting as a middle man in several drug deals. She says she turned to the trade out of desperation in order to make ends meet for her family.
While in prison, Johnson has become an ordained minister and has served as a mentor and tutor for other inmates. “It feels like I am sitting on death row. Unless things change, I will never go home alive,” she told the ACLU.
Danielle Metz is serving three life sentences for her involvement in her husband’s cocaine distribution enterprise — her first offense. Her jury was made up of 11 white jurors and one black juror, and she was convicted largely on the testimony of her aunt.
Raised in New Orleans, Metz was the youngest of nine children raised in New Orleans, and first became pregnant when she was 17. She is now a mother of two.
“To be away from my kids, to miss them growing up, to have to parent them over the phone and in the visitation room, to miss my daughter’s wedding, took a piece of me that can’t be replaced,” Metz told the ACLU. “It’s a tragedy shared by women, children, families and communities across this country … leaving the kids to think they don’t have a hope in the world.”
Michael Fitzgerald Wilson was sentenced to life without parole as a first-time nonviolent drug offender in 1994. Former President Bill Clinton commuted the sentence of the only white defendant involved in the case in 2001.
Now 48, Wilson seldom sees his three sons, who are now in their mid-20s, because they live in Texas and he’s imprisoned in California. He suffered a stroke in 2011 and his condition has improved very little.
Douglas Ray Dunkins Jr.
Had Douglas Ray Dunkins Jr. been selling powdered cocaine instead of crack, he’d be out of prison by now. But the now 47-year-old has been behind bars for almost 22 years, sentenced to life without parole for manufacturing and distributing crack cocaine when he was in his early 20s.
Even the judge in his case, Terry R. Means, had misgivings about putting Dunkins behind bars for so long. “It does seem unfair that the guidelines bind me to give you a life sentence,” he said at sentencing. “It troubles me to think that you at your age [are] going to have to spend the rest of your life in prison. It troubles me a lot.”
Altonio O’Shea Douglas
Altonio O’Shea Douglas has been in prison for 20 years for his first and only conviction for conspiracy to possess and distribute crack cocaine, possession with intention to distribute and use of carrying a firearm during a drug crime. He was offered a four-year deal to testify against his co-conspirators, but he didn’t want to go up against his relatives.
“It is very scary … to have to die in prison,” Douglas told the ACLU. “We all have to die one day, but you would like to die around your family. You die in a place like this, you just die in a room by yourself. It’s terrifying to think that this could possibly happen to you.”
At 23, college student Clarence Aaron was sentenced to three life-without-parole sentences for playing a minor role in two planned large drug deals. He wouldn’t testify against his co-conspirators, but they testified against him and received reduced sentences.
“At the time, neither Clarence nor I had any idea of how harsh a penalty he would receive for this error,” says his mother, Linda Aaron-McNeil. “When the judge announced the sentence of three life terms, my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. Since this nightmare began, I merely exist. The pain never subsides.”
Donald Allen was just 20 years old when he was sentenced to two life-without-parole sentences. He says his court-appointed lawyer did not provide adequate legal representation and that he wasn’t involved in the deal that resulted in his conviction on conspiracy and possession charges.
Sharanda Purlette Jones is serving life without parole for her part in a crack-cocaine conspiracy based almost entirely on the testimony of her alleged co-conspirators. Jones was arrested as part of a drug task force operation in Terrell, Texas, that netted 105 people. Actor Chuck Norris, who at the time was a volunteer police officer for the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department, reportedly participated in some of the arrests.
“I will expire in the federal system,” Jones told the ACLU of her sentence. It is really a slow death.”
Reynolds Wintersmith Jr.
Reynolds Wintersmith Jr. has spent half of his life in prison. He was arrested at 19 for dealing drugs and declined a plea offer of 10 years, choosing to go to trial. He was only a street dealer, but he opened himself up to the life-without-parole sentence because he was held accountable for the entire amount of cocaine sold as part of a conspiracy.
“This is your first conviction … and here you face life imprisonment. I think it gives me pause to think that that was the intention of Congress, to put somebody away for the rest of their life,” the judge said at his sentencing.
Wintersmith’s commutation petition is pending, and his daughter has asked President Barack Obama to give him “a second chance at life.”
Jesse Webster was never actually convicted of selling drugs. But in 1994, when he was still a teenager living on the South Side of Chicago, he helped arrange a cocaine deal that was later aborted. Months after that, he learned that the authorities wanted to question him about the failed endeavor, so he turned himself in. Rather than serve as an informant against a local gang that he wasn’t affiliated with, he went to trial, where the jury found him guilty of attempt and conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute and filing false tax returns. He was sentenced to life in prison at 27 years old.
“The world just got snatched out of me,” he told the ACLU.the first story is really ironic considering its the plot of weeds and thats been celebrated